I heard singing and dancing on the night of the first rain this season. This was in September. The peach trees had just started to turn pink and the air was warming up preparing for summer.
Until last week, it had been months since I had heard such singing or dancing. I unfamiliarly woke to a dripping on the floor of my rondeval and looked out my door and across the canyon. I could see a small fire with people dancing and singing around it — dancing for the rain.. It was pouring. I smiled and went back to sleep. Sunrise followed and the mountains were finally turning green.
Leonardo da Vinci regarded water as the driver of nature. It is seen in the canyons, the mountains, the clouds, and in life. The interconnectedness of species and our earth’s atmospheric components is a revolving door in which the hydrologic and the life cycle meet. Without one, the other cannot exist.
But what about when it’s gone and no one truly knows if or when it is coming back. And when it does, how much of it?
“When the well's dry, we know the worth of water.” - Benjamin Franklin
In the absence of singing taps have dried up, crops have failed, people have been hungry, thirsty, and they have feared for the future.
We listened to radios, read the headlines and talked to our friends and family around the country. Every story has been different, although altogether we are struggling.
In November, what I knew was that my pump routinely turned off and on. Sometimes for days at a time. In other areas, I had heard of taps going completely dry and long lines waiting for water. We all conserved and stored water.
Peace Corps started delivering large basins of water to volunteers that were without.
On December 22nd, 2015, Prime Minister Mosilisi declared the drought a state of emergency in Lesotho warning Basotho to brace up for the worst drought in over 40 years.
Ntate Mochoboroane of the Lesotho Meteorological Survey, said that this adverse weather is due to the El Niño weather syndrome, a periodic climatic phenomenon characterized by inadequate rain in some parts of the world and floods in others.
In a few hitches I have talked to farmers who were forced to kill their livestock because they were starving, who had to give up on their fields and who lacked any income whatsoever at this point in time.
By the end of December Maseru had sold out of water basins.
The radio said — the El Niño pattern weather is expected to bring hail, high winds, more sand storms, and high levels of snow early in season, freezing and destroying crops before they can grow.
This week I found myself on the road traveling to a PC Security workshop in the lowest district in Lesotho, Mafetang (Still sitting at around 3,500ft. Remember Lesotho has the highest lowest point of any country in the world!) I had only heard stories to the severity of the drought in this part of the country. The further I traveled the more obvious the effects of the drought had become — barren fields, evidence of failed crops, not a green patch of grass in site, bone thin livestock, and much more.
With the other Peace Corps Volunteers and Staff attending the workshop we contemplated the future and discussed some of the current dire circumstances in the country. Volunteers in Mafetang shared the stories from their villages. In most of Mafetang there are lines at the wells and water taps are currently useless. PCV Tracy told us that the government had already started supplying the most “at-risk” families with 5 Gallons of water a week. She said the water is supposed to last them a week, but the jugs are seen lined up along the road after two to three days (older toilets use up to 5 gallons alone to flush! And a healthy individual better be peeing at least a few times a day.. So to Lesotho governmental water relief standards 4 families water for one week equals how many times you pee in a day). Those who still do not have water are going to the Mafetang Reservoir which is left in a yellow, mucky mess. Without doubt, there is an expectation that there will be a continuing lack of water and whether rain comes or not the outcome has already been predetermined. Over 700,000 people in Lesotho will suffer from starvation, livestock will die by the thousands, new diseases from poor water quality may be introduced, and international relief will be necessary, if not crucial, for survival.
On the National front I have read Lesotho recently made a plan of action for the future that includes buying a large abundance of JoJo tanks, figuring out who will be most impacted, possibly opening up Katse Dam to Lesotho, and allocating 130 million rand for future relief.
This is not just lesotho, it is all over Africa. What's next?
“Water, like religion and ideology, has the power to move millions of people.. People move when there is too little of it. People move when there is too much of it. People journey down it. People write, sing and dance about it. People fight over it. And all people, everywhere and every day, need it.” - Mikhail Gorbachev
Photos courtesy of PCV Stephanie Sales and Joni Ellis
Contrasting the title of this post we are working on a video about song and dance in Lesotho and how it brings the most joy to the Basotho people. Here are some pretty photos from the spontaneous shoot after our awesome few days of rain in Thaba Tseka last week!
Post inspired by the awesome